Archive for the ‘Green Patents’ category

Mitsubishi Powers Past GE in ITC Wind Turbine Case

January 27th, 2010


Mitsubishi has pulled off a come-from-behind victory in a wind turbine patent case against General Electric (GE) in the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC). 

In a Notice issued on January 8th, the ITC terminated its investigation of GE’s complaint and found Mitsubishi did not violate any claims of the three patents asserted by GE.

GE filed the complaint in March of 2008, accusing Mitsubishi of infringing certain claims of U.S. Patent Nos. 5,083,039 (‘039 Patent) and 6,921,985 (‘985 Patent).  GE later amended the complaint to include U.S. Patent No. 7,321,221 (‘221 Patent). 

The ‘039 Patent is entitled “Variable speed wind turbine” and is directed to a variable speed turbine that provides responsive control of generator torque. 

The ‘985 Patent is entitled “Low voltage ride through for wind turbine generators” and is directed to a wind turbine that includes a blade pitch control system and a turbine controller coupled with the blade pitch control system. 

The ‘221 Patent is entitled “Method for operating a wind power plant and method for operating it” and is directed to improved methods for stabilizing the supply voltage to a wind turbine after voltage drops without jeopardizing the electrical components of the turbine.  

A more detailed discussion of the asserted patents can be found in my previous post on the federal court case between GE and Mitsubishi here.

The ITC decision to let Mitsubishi off the hook reversed an administrative law judge’s (ALJ) ruling in August of last year that Mitsubishi had violated the ‘039 and ‘985 Patents. 

Shortly after the ALJ decision, an ITC investigative attorney filed a petition with the ITC commissioners questioning certain infringement findings and raising concerns about whether GE met the domestic industry requirement of Section 337.

The Notice of Termination clears the way for Mitsubishi to assemble its imported turbine components and build a $100 million wind power plant in Forth Smith, Arkansas.

From Preclusion to Exclusion? ITC Staff Supports Paice Summary Judgment Motion

January 20th, 2010


In two previous posts (here and here) I discussed the patent infringement case between hybrid drivetrain technology company Paice LLC (Paice) and Toyota in the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC).

In September of last year, Paice filed a complaint in the ITC asking the agency to investigate whether Toyota’s importation of the third generation Prius, the Camry hybrid and two Lexus models (Accused Products) infringed U.S. Patent No. 5,343,970 (‘970 Patent).

After the ITC agreed to open an investigation, Paice moved for summary determination of infringement, validity and enforceability of the ‘970 Patent. 

Specifically, Paice contended that Toyota was barred from asserting a defense of non-infringement of the ‘970 patent and from challenging the validity or enforceability of the ‘970 patent under the principles of claim preclusion and issue preclusion because of a prior federal district court and appeals court ruling against Toyota.

In a response issued in December and made public earlier this month, the ITC staff agreed with Paice and supported its motion.   The response noted that, although the Accused Products are different from those at issue in the federal court case, Toyota admitted that the hybrid drivetrains are materially the same as the vehicles found to infringe in that lawsuit.

Compounding Toyota’s troubles was a ruling last week in the same case in which the ITC staff opposed the automaker’s cross-motion for summary judgment that claim preclusion should bar Paice from obtaining any remedy in the investigation. 

The response rejected Toyota’s argument because claim preclusion applies only to the cause of action and does not include the ensuing remedies.

Assuming the administrative law judge follows the recommendations of the ITC staff, the only remaining issue would be whether Paice meets the “domestic industry” requirement. 

19 U.S.C. 1337 requires that there be an industry in the U.S. relating to the products at issue, which includes both an economic prong (demonstrated investment in plant/equipment, labor/capital, research and development or licensing) and a technical prong (demonstrated practice of the asserted intellectual property right).

Now the big question is whether Toyota will continue to fight or decide to fold and pay royalties to Paice.  If the case moves forward, it will be interesting to see whether the ITC finds Paice’s engineering, R&D and licensing activities in the U.S. suffice to meet the domestic industry requirement.

Considering what is at stake in this case – Paice has requested a permanent exclusion order barring entry into the U.S. of the Prius, Camry hybrid and the two accused Lexus models – I wonder if and when the mainstream media will start to pay attention.

Litepanels Asserts Film Production LED Lighting Patents

January 7th, 2010


Litepanels, LTD, a UK company, and Litepanels, Inc., a Los Angeles-based corporation (collectively “Litepanels”), make LED lighting systems for use in film and TV production. 

Last month Litepanels sued Dot Line Corp. (Dot Line) and Infocus Camera & Imaging, LLC (ICI) in federal court in Tyler, Texas, alleging infringement of U.S. Patent Nos. 6,948,823 (‘823 Patent) and 7,604,361 (‘361 Patent) (litepanels_complaint.pdf). 

The ‘823 Patent is entitled “Wide area lighting apparatus and effects system” and is directed to a camera mountable lighting frame (302) having multiple lamp segments (306) arranged in a radial pattern around a center hole (303).  Each lamp segment 306 comprises a plurality of LEDs (305).


The portable frame could be circular (as picture above) or rectangular.  When the portable frame is mounted to a movable camera, the frame follows the movements of the camera.

The ‘361 Patent is a continuation-in-part of the ‘823 Patent and is entitled “Versatile lighting apparatus and associated kit.”  It is directed to an LED light panel with a self-contained battery unit that provides power to the light elements but not to the camera.

Litepanels previously asserted the ‘823 Patent against Sony, which quickly settled the case about a month after the complaint was filed.

Cornell Spin Out Catalyzes CO2-Based Plastic Wrap

January 3rd, 2010


Novomer, Inc. (Novomer) is a Cornell University spin out that makes green plastics, polymers and other chemicals from carbon dioxide and other renewable raw materials. 

Novomer uses catalysis systems invented by Cornell professor Geoffrey Coates, and patented by the university, to make various polymers.  One of the company’s primary products is polypropylene carbonate (PPC), known as NB-180, which consists of 50% fossil fuels and 50% carbon dioxide.

Through Coates’s chemical catalysis, epoxides (fossil fuel materials) can be reacted with carbon monoxide or carbon dioxide at low temperatures and pressures to produce high performance polymers that provide better barriers for storing food and decompose into environmentally benign products, according to the company’s web site.

U.S. Patent No. 6,133,402 (‘402 Patent) relates to zinc- and other metal-based catalysts for co-polymerization of alkylene oxides and carbon dioxide.  U.S. Patent No. 7,304,172 (‘172 Patent) is directed to cobalt catalysts, various co-catalysts and reversible chain transfer agents for use with cobalt catalysts for co-polymerization of propylene oxide and carbon dioxide. 

The ‘172 Patent claims a few different catalysts, including a cobalt catalyst having the following general structure:


Novomer also owns International Patent Application Pub. No. WO 2009/148889 (‘889 Application), which published last month and is directed to methods of controlling the molecular weight distribution of polymers made by addition polymerization reactions.  The ‘889 Application incorporates by reference the ‘402 and ‘172 Patents and some of Coates’s scientific publications.

Novomer recently partnered with Kodak to build a pilot production facility to make plastic wraps and coatings for testing by prospective customers.  According to this Greentech Media story, because of the huge amounts of oil that go into plastics manufacturing, if Novomer’s process were to go universal U.S. fuel consumption could drop by 5%.

Toyota Slows Hybrid Vehicle Patent Attack as Court Rules “Speed Demands” Limitation Indefinite

December 21st, 2009

In a previous post, I wrote about patent attorney-inventor Conrad O. Gardner’s patent infringement suit against Toyota Motor Corp. (Toyota). 

In April 2008, Gardner sued Toyota in federal court in Seattle, accusing the automaker of infringing U.S. Patent No. 7,290,627 (‘627 patent), entitled “Extended Range Motor Vehicle Having Ambient Pollutant Processing” by making and selling the second generation Prius, the Camry and the Highlander.

According to the second amended complaint (gardnercomplaint.pdf), the ‘627 patent’s early priority date (based on a parent patent application filed back in April 1992) was more than two years before Toyota began investigating the development of a commercial hybrid automobile.

Last month Toyota succeeded in knocking independent claim 6 out of the case when the court granted Toyota’s motion for partial summary judgment that the claim was invalid for indefiniteness under Section 112, paragraph 2 of the Patent Act.  This provision provides that patent claims must “particularly point[] out and distinctly claim[]” the subject matter of the invention.

The problematic language of claim 6 is “said speed demands.”  The claim reads:

6.  A hybrid motor vehicle comprising in combination:

an engine;

an electric motor;

a storage device;

said electric motor power said hybrid motor at lower speeds;

said engine powering said vehicle at high speeds; and said engine operative connected through a charging path for charging said battery at lower speeds

wherein said speed demands do not drop below 40 mph for predetermined time periods of 45 seconds.

The court held claim 6 indefinite because it is unclear what “said speed demands” refers to (gardner_order.pdf).  The claim recites both high speeds and lower speeds, however:

Nothing in claim 6 directs one of ordinary skill in the art as to which of the two earlier recited speeds provides the antecedent basis for “said speed demands.”

This is a significant win for Toyota because claim 6 was the broader of the two independent claims of the ‘627 patent.

Thanks to Stu Soffer, who brought this decision to my attention.

U.S.P.TO. Launches Green Tech Pilot Program to Speed Green Patenting

December 12th, 2009


Last week the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) announced an expedited examination procedure for clean tech patent applications

The Green Technology Pilot Program allows applications relating to improving environmental quality, conserving energy, developing renewable energy resources or reducing greenhouse gas emissions to be advanced out of turn for substantive examination.

Applicants that wish to participate in the program need to file a petition with the PTO requesting participation and indicating that their patent application complies with the program requirements. 

The window of opportunity is nominally one year:  the program launched on December 8, 2009, and petitions must be filed before December 8, 2010.  However, only the first 3,000 petitions will be accepted.

The basic eligibility requirements are as follows:

the application is a non-reissue, non-provisional utility application filed before December 8, 2009 for which a first office action has not been issued;

the invention is classified in one of the specific technological classes approved as a “green technology” class;

the application has three or fewer independent claims, 20 or fewer total claims and no multiple dependent claims (the applicant can file a preliminary amendment to bring the application in compliance with this requirement);

the application claims a single invention directed to environmental quality, conserving energy, developing renewable energy resources or reducing greenhouse gas emissions; and

the applicant must request early publication of the application.

Compared to the established procedure for expedited examinations, the pilot program has the tremendous advantage that it does not shift much of the examination workload to the applicant by requiring submission of prior art analysis in an onerous Examination Support Document.

The PTO joins at least the U.K. Intellectual Property Office and the Korean Intellectual Property Office in creating a procedure to expedite green patenting.

New LED Litigation Lights Up Marshall, Texas: Nichia Sues Jiawei While Philips, Osram and VW Play Defense

December 9th, 2009


Three new light emitting diode (LED) patent infringement suits were filed last month, all in the Eastern District of Texas in Marshall.

In the first case, Japanese LED maker Nichia Corporation (Nichia) has accused Chinese solar products company Jiawei North America Inc. (Jiawei) of infringing four patents relating to LED technology.

According to Nichia’s bare bones complaint (nichia_complaint.pdf), Jiawei is infringing U.S. Patent Nos. 5,998,925 (‘925 Patent), 7,026,756 (‘756 Patent), 7,531,960 (‘960 Patent) and 6,870,191 (‘191 Patent).  The ‘925, ‘756 and ‘960 Patents are members of the same patent family.

The three related patents describe a light emitting diode (100) that minimizes deterioration in emission light intensity by including a phosphor in the coating resin (101) that covers the light emitting component (102).  The ‘756 Patent claims a garnet fluorescent material activated with cerium as the phosphor.


According to the ‘756 Patent, incorporating a phosphor in the LED reduces deterioration:

the phosphor used in the light emitting device has excellent resistance against light so that the fluorescent properties thereof experience less change even when used over an extended period of time while being exposed to light of high intensity.  This makes it possible to reduce the degradation of characteristics during long period of use and reduce deterioration due to light of high intensity emitted by the light emitting component . . . to provide a light emitting device which experiences less color shift and less luminance decrease.

In two lawsuits filed the same day, Light Transformation Technologies LLC (LTT), exclusive licensee of U.S. Patent No. 6,543,911 (‘911 Patent), has accused a host of lighting and electronics companies of infringing the ‘911 Patent.

One complaint (ltt_complaint1.pdf) lists 15 defendants including LEDdynamics, Philips, Osram Sylvania and Volkswagen.  The other complaint (ltt_complaint2.pdf) names Alliance Electronics and several others. 

The accused products include lenses, optics, lighting products and automobile lights that either allegedly infringe the ‘911 Patent or are designed for use with allegedly infringing products. 

The ‘911 Patent is entitled “Highly efficient luminaire having optical transformer providing precalculated angular intensity distribution and method therefore.”  The central innovation of the ‘911 Patent is an integrated omnidirectional light transformer (100) that includes an optical window (110) and a support (120).   


The light transformer (100) may have an aspherical reflective surface (130) and be incorporated into lighting assembly or luminaire (300) along with a light source (310), a shell (320), a connector (330) and a printed circuit board (340).  The light source (310), which may be an LED, emits light rays (350, 352) that are reflected in accordance with the curvature of the reflective surface (130). 


According to the ‘911 Patent, this design results in luminaire (300) having a luminous intensity higher at lower angles, and all light emitted by the light source will be directed in a predetermined pattern. 

In particular, the luminaire 300 can redirect the light so that illuminance at a long range distance (i.e. at the lower observation angles) will be equal to illuminance at a short range distance (i.e. at the higher observation angles).  Therefore, as a driver in a car approaches the luminaire 300, the driver can perceive light of equal intensity at long distances and at short distances from the luminaire 300.

Pyron Pioneers Solar Concentrators that Swim with the Fishes

December 5th, 2009


Pyron Solar Inc. (Pyron) is a San Diego company that develops and makes solar concentrators.

Pyron and San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) recently announced that SDG&E is building a demonstration project to test Pyron’s patented concentrated solar power system.  The system uses shallow pools of water as a passive cooling system for high efficiency solar cells.

Pyron’s U.S. Patent No. 7,299,632 (‘632 Patent) is entitled “Solar electricity generator” and is directed to a solar electrical generator comprising a concentrator, a homogenizer and a photovoltaic (PV) cell.  The concentrator concentrates solar rays onto an entrance surface of the homogenizer, which is in turn attached to a PV cell.

The concentrators are positioned in troughs (1) that sit in bodies of water (5).  The water (5) acts as a passive coolant to disperse the heat generated by the PV cells.   

In addition, buoyancy torque created by pumping the water (5) between ballast compartment (8) and ballast compartment (9) and pressure differentials between the compartments pivots the troughs (1) to keep the lenses (2) aimed directly at the sun.


The lenses (2) concentrate solar rays (3) at focal spot (4).  According to the ‘632 Patent, the highly concentrated “pencil” of solar rays (3) then enter homogenizer (43) and are evenly distributed onto PV cell (4’) by loss-free total internal reflection.


According to the ‘632 Patent, this system makes better use of solar farm real estate by covering 87% of the set-aside land.  Pyron’s product description also touts the greater power production and reliability of its passive coolant design, noting that it protects the equipment from exposure to extreme wind. 

Pyron plans to stock the pools of water with fish to prevent mosquito infestation, leading Matter Network to speculate that “perhaps the fish farms of the future will double as solar energy collectors.”

More Settlements In and Out of Court for Litigious LED Professor

December 1st, 2009

In previous posts (e.g., here and here), I’ve written about Columbia Professor Emeritus and LED innovator Gertrude Neumark Rothschild’s string of successful settlement agreements and patent licensing deals. 

Earlier this month, Mitsubishi became the latest potential infringement target to take a license, when the Japanese conglomerate chose to settle out of court with Ms. Rothschild. 

According to IPLaw360, Rothschild granted Mitsubishi certain rights to U.S. Patent No. 5,252,499, entitled “Wide band-gap semiconductors having low bipolar resistivity and method of formation.”

The ‘499 patent is directed to methods of doping semiconductors, which means adding impurities to increase the number of free charge carriers.  Rothschild’s patented technology has had a major impact on LEDs by making production of green, blue and other short wavelength LEDs more economically viable.

The announcement of the Mitsubishi settlement comes at about the same time that Rothschild dropped her ITC charges against Toshiba and Panasonic upon reaching agreements with those companies (see info on the Toshiba ITC termination order here and the Panasonic order here).

According to her attorney, quoted here by CNBC, Rothschild has reached settlements or licensing agreements with more than 40 companies generating more than $27 million.  Some of those companies include LG Electronices, Motorola, Samsung, Sharp, Sony and Philips.

Green Patent Predictions: Law Firm Forecast Predicts Rise in Clean Tech Patents

November 24th, 2009

The Woodcock Washburn law firm recently released its 2009 Cleantech Patent Forecast, which predicts rising numbers of clean tech patents in the next few years.

The firm used a proprietary algorithm to predict future clean tech patent trends based on past and current trends in various clean tech sectors.  The sectors analyzed by the report are wind, solar, biofuels, hybrid-electric and fuel cells, all of which are predicted to see growth.

The projected growth in issued patents is as follows:

wind – from 236 in 2008 to almost 600 in 2012

hybrid-electric – from 743 in 2008 to over 1,400 in 2012

solar – from 363 in 2008 to over 900 in 2012

biofuels – from 140 in 2008 to 530 in 2012

fuel cells – from 723 in 2008 to 931 in 2011, down to 912 in 2012

According to the report, the relatively slow growth in fuel cell patents reflects the maturity of the sector compared to the other clean tech sectors.

Whether or not the forecasted stats turn out to be accurate, few would dispute the report’s predictions as to the general trajectory of green patents.